How to Talk Someone Out of Dangerously Believing “Mystics” / Charlatans 

The combination of ageing family members and a relentless pace of technological innovation increases the chances of our close ones being scammed in various ways. 

If you are someone with ageing parents, you can perhaps see the fragility of their existence in this vicious, unforgiving battle for a dollar. The fragile seem to be unproportionally attracted to mystical beliefs. 

Though we live in the “information age,” the difference between fact based knowledge and false claims presented as truth seems to be difficult to nail down. The sheer amount of consumable content available does not entice us to spend additional time sifting through the details behind every claim. 

There’s always more to watch, more to read, and more groups to legitimize our false beliefs. 

Perhaps even within your own family, you’ll find people who become swindled by various charlatans. Whether online or on TV, there are plenty of avenues that lead to dangerous mystical beliefs. Shows that focus on spirits, clairvoyants, and psychics may seem to have an innocent existence to provide entertainment. However, the indoctrination of their watchers / listeners can lead to dangerous outcomes

Things like spending time and money on unproven medical treatments is one example. Scams in the form of receiving relationship advice from mystics can also make victims out of the naive

This article aims to improve your ability to dissuade people close to you from falling victim to the various charlatans of the world.  

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe

Why Dissuading Someone From Believing Mystics Is Difficult

As sad as it may be, the simple act of unveiling a lack of evidence behind a mystic’s extravagant claims isn’t effective in changing ignorant minds on its own. 

That approach is missing an elicitation of feelings / emotion in those who only adhere to feelings when they make decisions. Even worse, it is an approach that may elicit unhelpful feelings (anger, stubbornness) which block progress rather than supplement it. 

Telling a family member that the mystic they full heartedly believe to be communicating with their dead relatives is a liar is bound to elicit an unhelpful emotional response. An issue you’d be disregarding in that case is the extremely emotional nature of the context at hand. 

The mystic in question would have cast a baited hook which fixed itself on to a very sensitive and emotional part of the mind. This manipulation of deep seated emotions is one reason why people who scam others by weaponizing such sensitivities are a special kind of evil. 

 

Aligning Attention Toward Profit 

It seems we’re more inclined to be skeptical when we discover how much the snake oil salesman profits rather than how much he lies. The lack of strict, scientific evidence behind their claims alone doesn’t seem to discourage the ignorant from blindly considering unfalsifiable claims to be true. 

The concept is illustrated by comparing the following two quotes:

“You’ve been lied to!” 

vs.

“Look at how rich you’ve made the liar!” 

When the lack of evidence behind the things mystics claim is combined with the publication of the profits (monetarily or otherwise) those mystical assertions result in, victims seem to be more inclined to raise suspicion

Feeling cheated tends to taste a little bit bitterer than being lied to. 

Ensure that there is evidence for how much money the alleged mystics reel in at the expense of the naive and ignorant. Point out how many pieces of merchandise they sell on their site because of their lies, and how much average television shows such as the one in question make from advertisements. 

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Inducing a Sense of Competition Between the Mystic and the Victim

Possible reasons for why this approach may work all point toward monetary profit being something which is universally fought for by all. It is a widely understood concept, and money is often a topic which is as sensitive as the topics which mystics profit off. 

Illuminating how much the mystics profit from abusing the naive, encourages victims of their seduction to see them as equals (and even as competitors). 

You’d be reminding the victims that the mystics they love so much are playing the same game as them. Both the victim and the mystic are likely worried about their bottom line at the end of the day. Illuminate the fact that these mystics are using lies to take away from the victim’s bottom line only to add it on to theirs. 

Wedging competitive feelings between the mystic and their admirer doesn’t take much effort, and seems to be an effective long term solution to tainting the perception of the easily swayed. 

Since you’d be focused on matching and exceeding the emotional response that these mystics weaponize, being cheated out of one’s money is one notion which would come close to eliciting the same type of emotional response

Use metaphors in your explanations. Paint the picture of these mystics being akin to those who snatch purses and wallets on the subway. Explain how evil what they do is by illuminating their business model behind the scenes. Run the victim through a simulation of what they’d do if someone close to them were to be lied to and cheated out of their money. 

Your hope in such a scenario would be to entice the victim at hand to conceptualize the damage that believing in mystics causes to their lives and the lives of those they love. 

The optimal approach is one which would elicit the feeling of being cheated, in some form, within those who ignorantly adhere to believing mystical claims. It is only then that you could highlight the fact that the victim is being cheated in a manner which is based on lies. It would be one thing if they were simply being lied to by a person on the street, but your evidence for the fact that popular mystics are acting only for potential profits would make their behavior more hurtful.  

 

For Every Charlatan, You’ll Find Dissatisfied / Angry Victims

Those who were once in the position of the individual you’re attempting to bring back to reality could have had reality slap them in the face. The people who have been cheated by charlatans and mystics tend to be vocal about their experience. If you suspect that you’ll find evidence of people’s prior negative experiences with the charlatans / mystics in question, then it may be a good idea to dig for those comments / experiences online. 

The two things you should focus on in this attempt to find others who back your opinion are: 

  1. Ensuring there is commonality between the person you’re attempting to dissuade with the people who had negative experiences with the charlatan in question.
  2. Ensuring a person’s past experience is a clear and emotion-fueled commentary on how the charlatan in question damaged their life. 

Akin to finding helpful negative reviews of a product you were about to buy, people’s negative experiences with the charlatan in question are effective tools of persuasion. The issue with such recitals is that you’ll be sure to stumble across positive reviews of the same mystics too. It is thereby important to have a keen sense of what reviews to show and what areas of the web to limit exposure to. 



Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims in any way.